Stifling "D" sends Spain to semis

15 August 2008

The old adage goes: "Defense wins championships". Well, if that is the case, then Spain have excellent chances of collecting their fifth gold medal at the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women - and fourth in the past five years.

Jose Ignacio Hernandez's Spain are in the semi-finals

in Katowice with their defense leading them to an undefeated record heading into the Saturday match-up against Sweden.

The Spanish held Italy to just 32 percent shooting in taking top honours in Group F with a 5-0 record with a 61-57 over-time victory in the final Qualifying Round game. It was the first game in which Spain allowed more than 50 points.

"I have really been surprised with how good our defense has been," Hernandez admitted.

"We are very happy. We have been very strong on defense. And that has made the differnence."

Hernandez's girls are at or near the top of all the main team defensive categories in Poland. Spain are allowing just 42 points per game, the fewest for any team. They are also holding opponents to just 26 percent shooting - also the lowest for any side.

The Spaniards are also blocking 4.3 shots per game (fourth-most) and grabbing 12.7 steals (fifth-best).

"If our defense continues to play like it has so far then we can compete for the gold medal," said Hernandez.

The coach, however, is not without concerns entering the semi-finals.

"While we are very solid on defense, we are having problems executing in moments on offense," said the coach. "We need to be cleaner. I want my team to play with more vision on offense."

If Hernandez's team can get that done, it may get even scarier for their opponents. The team is already averaging 68 points per game - the third-most in the tournament. The Iberians are also averaging a tournament-best 16 assists a contest while committing 18 turnovers per game - the third-fewest of any team.

Even though Hernandez's offense looks like it's solid, it is the defense which has Spain dreaming of gold again.

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